As relatively easy and straightforward as walking is (no gym fee or swimsuit needed, for starters), there’s mounting evidence that you should get serious, very serious, about doing it regularly. Why? From reducing your risk of certain cancers to keeping off extra pounds to strengthening your memory, a daily habit of lacing up and heading out gives you almost unparalleled health bang for your buck.

In one study, researchers tracked older adults and found that those who walked six to nine miles a week reduced their risk of memory problems by 50 percent. But the habit’s most important role might be in boosting your overall health span, “which means not just living longer but adding more years of living independently as you age,” notes Mark Cucuzzella, a professor of family medicine at West Virginia University Department of Family Medicine. In his opinion, viewing walking only in terms of how many calories it burns sells the exercise short, given its dramatic benefits for key systems like your brain, heart and muscles. And research shows that when it comes to walking and your life span, more is more. A study from the American Cancer Society showed that an hour of walking a day lowered subjects’ risk of death by 30 percent, compared with those who stayed put on the couch.

The links between walking and preserving brain function just keep coming. A 2011 study showed that simply by walking three days a week for 40 minutes, 65-year-olds could shave off about two years of typical age-related atrophy of the hippocampus. In that study, the group assigned to stretching instead of walking showed slight shrinkage of this region of the brain. And in a more recent study, researchers at New Mexico Highlands University found that the foot’s impact during walking generates pressure waves through the arteries that can increase the supply of blood to the brain, boosting its function. There’s also new research out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver that shows that patients who already have certain types of dementia can see improved brain function with walking (which researchers attributed to improved blood flow to and increased growth factors in the brain).

AARP is committed to helping people take control of their health as they age.  By providing tools, resources, and information that will entertain and inspire, educate and stimulate, engage and activate, AARP hopes to create an environment where our members can lead their healthiest lives possible in mind, body, and spirit. AARP wants to help you take a whole-body approach to your Healthy Living goals. A whole-body approach to Healthy Living means improving how you eat, sleep, exercise, and connect with others at every stage of aging.

Visit https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/ for more information on AARP’s healthy living resources and tips!

AARP NJ has partnered with Rutgers Gardens to help you on your path to a healthier life! Take advantage of our local offering using code ACTIVE1 for a discounted rate on Guided Tours at the Gardens – Monday through Friday, day or evening – 20% off guided tours. The tours are held rain or shine, with a 24-hour cancellation notice. The minimum number of attendees that will designate a group is 10. Call or email Bruce Crawford at Rutgers Gardens at  bcrawf@sebs.rutgers.edu or 732-932-8451 to take advantage of this deal!

Check out what else Rutgers Gardens is doing this year by visiting: http://rutgersgardens.rutgers.edu/events